Monday, 29th May 2023
Breaking News:

Group condemns judge’s reinstatement

By Joseph Onyekwere
16 February 2023   |   3:51 am
The group urged the National Judicial Council (NJC) to direct that no cases be assigned to her pending hearing and determination of the appeal before the Supreme Court.

Access to Justice (A2J) has condemned reinstatement of Justice Gladys Olotu of the Federal High Court.

The group urged the National Judicial Council (NJC) to direct that no cases be assigned to her pending hearing and determination of the appeal before the Supreme Court.

According to the A2J, the decision by the NJC to reinstate Justice Olotu would further embarrass the judiciary.

In a statement signed by the convener, Joseph Otteh, the group said the directive coming on the heels of reinstatement of Justice Rita Ofili-Ajumogobia for misconduct was disturbing.

The statement reads in part: “Unrelenting decisions to recall and reinstate judges removed for misconduct appear to give the impression that the judiciary has turned full circle against its own idiosyncrasies and no longer holds itself to any distinctive standard of conduct, rectitude and accountability, which are universal markers of judicial officers.

“In court decisions and elsewhere, the judiciary has said, time and time again, that a court’s authority is premised on public confidence. Yet the NJC is doing everything it can to damage that confidence and undermine that authority.”

“More so, the NJC’s decisions underlie and reflect a deeper, more insidious problem, lack of resolve and will by the Council to repair and win back badly damaged public confidence in courts of justice. In spite of the crisis bedeviling the judiciary in recent years, leading to removal of a Chief Justice of Nigeria, the extensive range of indictments against judges and relentless deprecatory commentary on performance of Nigerian courts, the NJC has not formulated an inspiring strategy and programme of action to re-engage the Nigerian public and show that it is getting its act together.”

It went on: “The NJC has been on its back foot in the quest to make the judiciary a more accountable and ethical institution, and its missteps are badly hurting the image of otherwise hardworking and conscientious judges and justices in its midst.”

The group recalled that in 2014, the NJC, under the leadership of Justice Aloma Mariam Mukhtar, recommended compulsory retirement of Justice Olotu of the Federal High Court (FHC) and President Jonathan accordingly removed her from office.

A2J stated: “Justice Olotu was removed on grounds, among others, that she failed to deliver judgment in a suit 18 months after final addresses, in contravention of constitutional stipulations requiring judgments to be delivered within a 90-day period after hearing.

“Justice Olotu challenged her compulsory retirement and at the Appeal Court, got a reprieve. In February 2022, the Court of Appeal ruled that her compulsory retirement was unconstitutional, given that, in the court’s view, the Federal Judicial Service Commission, which recommended her appointment did not recommend her removal from office.

“The court, however, made no order of reinstatement and the NJC has appealed the judgment to the Supreme Court. The NJC ordered the reinstatement of Justice Olotu in January 2022 and she has been reabsorbed into the FHC.”

Quoting Section 36(1) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), the group said the section “provides that every person is entitled to fair hearing by a court or tribunal that is constituted in such manner as to secure its independence and impartiality.

“Compelling litigants to appear before, and be judged by persons found guilty of serious misconduct, or who have clouds of doubts hanging over their integrity, and who cannot therefore, earn their trust, arguably violates litigants’ rights to fair hearing, given that the court is not constituted in ways or by persons who can provide the requisite constitutional assurances to them.”